Notes for remarks by Mr. Timothy W. Casgrain, Chair of the Board of CBC/Radio-Canada, before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage

May 29, 2007

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Mr. Chair, Members of the Committee, I am honoured to be here with you today as the new Chair of the Board of CBC/Radio-Canada.

This is my first time before a Parliamentary Committee. This Committee's interest in Canada's public broadcaster is well-known and I look forward to meeting with you often during my term. Your ongoing study into the role and mandate of CBC/Radio-Canada is triggering an important discussion about what Canadians want from their public broadcaster for the future and the resources needed to provide it. I would like to give you my view of the purpose of a public broadcaster enunciated so eloquently in an article about the former chairman of the BBC, Sir John Birt: It reads,

    "But more important than the technological innovations was the sense that Sir John Birt believes in the BBC as a civilizing and democratic force. We encourage the power of reason and rationality. We bring pressure to go beyond prejudice or the needs of an immediate moment. We move with the power of our reporting. We provide illumination. We promote insight. We offer moral perspectives. We produce programs that make you care about other people, and understand them better, and perhaps act on that understanding. The BBC fosters a rambunctious, vigorous and informed democracy. We strain to ensure thatall voices are heard, however uncomfortable; that they are given a fair hearing, and tested."

What emerged from Sir John's speech was his sense of vision and purpose, and his pride in the BBC as a magnet for young creative talent and as "a beacon; a great cause; a big adventure of the mind."

I think Canada's public broadcaster should be guided by a similar vision, and I look forward to reading your findings and recommendations.

You have had the opportunity to look at my résumé. You will see that my background in business lacks any broadcasting experience. But like you, I have a great love for the CBC. I have grown up with it. I have learned so much about my country and the world from it. I want to ensure that this great organization and its people continue to serve an important role in the lives of all Canadians. I believe my experience can help both in leading the Board of Directors and in working with the President and his senior management team as they position the public broadcaster in the changing environment.

Since being sworn in on May 5th, I have attended my first board meeting in Vancouver and met all of the Corporation's senior management. I have also met a number of other CBC people on my visits to various cities. I am extremely proud to tell you that it is a very dedicated and passionate group of people who bring CBC/Radio-Canada to Canadians. You individually, and as a committee have heard in your travels across the country that Canadians want a public broadcaster that is more relevant to them; more relevant to their lives at a time when Canadians and their interests are more diverse than ever before, and they are feeling the impact of continuous change.

Some Canadians worry that their public broadcaster risks becoming too commercial, but few believe taxpayers alone can provide it with the resources it needs to provide the service Canadians want.

Like all organizations, for CBC/Radio-Canada to succeed it must have stable long-term funding in order to be able to run its operations effectively and to plan for the future.

Stable funding ensures that the people at the Corporation can work to provide the programming that will inform, educate and entertain Canadians. We have the talent with the creative minds to do that and more. In this fast-changing environment our job is to empower the people at Canada's national public broadcaster to rise to this enormous challenge of making every Canadian embrace CBC/Radio-Canada as the most relevant source of information and entertainment that links us together as one country all the time.

Thank you for this opportunity to share my thoughts with you. I would be pleased to answer any questions that you may have.

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